A vintage ship for a vintage girl

I did it! I finally did it! I bought my very own glider. It’s a vintage ship: a 1964 Scheibe L-Spatz 55 made out of wood and fabric except for the nose, which is fiberglass.

Now, this glider is absolutely unique… in so many ways, but first of all, here is its story.

A man named Mr. Michaud was based in Germany in the 60’s and while he was working on a Canadian Air Force base there, he decided to buy a glider and flew it there for several years. In 1972, he came home to Canada and had the glider shipped with him… in style. It was brought into the country in the belly of a Hercules as it was part of his personal belongings! Once it arrived here, something absolutely astonishing happened. Transport Canada wouldn’t let him transfer the German registration to a Canadian one because the glider had been bought while on a military base. It took Mr. Michaud almost a year of back and forth letters with Transport Canada to get the aircraft finally licensed, and once it was, the letters chosen by the Government employee were: CF-FAG!!!

Jump to 2015, two years after getting my licence, when a new member arrived at our club with this very peculiar looking glider. It is a single-seat vintage performance ship. I took one look at that little, feminine-looking glider and thought “Wow. I would love to have a little ship like that. Especially with that registration!” At the time, Sam Michaud had just bought this glider to take up soaring again, an activity he used to do on his Dad’s lap when he was a tiny little 2-year old boy. Yes. You guessed right. Sam Michaud is Mr. Michaud’s son. He bought back his father’s glider. Unfortunately for him (fortunately for me), he wasn’t able to maintain the maximum pilot weight of 168 lbs. to fly this featherlight glider (404 lbs. empty weight). So, he put it on the market during the summer of 2017. With a registration like that and such a limiting maximum pilot weight, only a woman could be the next owner!

Now, you might be saying, “Why would anyone want to fly an old machine like that?” Well, call it emotions, call it nostalgia, call it what you will, but I only enjoy flying the older ships. Indeed, my partner owns a Schleicher Ka-7 from 1966 and I learned to fly on an ASK-13 at my gliding club. There were other modern ships that I perfected my skills in, but all of my nicest flights always took place in the Ka-7 or the ASK-13. I love to “feel” the airplane fly. The wood and fabric and basic instruments make flying so much more pleasing to me.

Finally, on May 18, 2018, I flew my glider for the very first time. Prior to take-off, I went through the entire spectrum of emotions: fear, excitement, doubt, anxiety, happiness,… you name it! Although I had flown 8 different models of gliders over the course of 5 years, I was totally freaked out by the idea of flying this light sailplane and making it safely through the tow and back onto one of the three grass runways of our Club.

While John and I were washing both of our vintage ships, our friend Karl stopped and said, “Hey! The Vintages!” Something tells me that nickname will stick. We prepared the radios and other electronic devices and walked them out to Runway 08. Here is the nice family photo of our two ships. Another friend at the club, Luc walked by and said, “Hey! There’s Mini-Me!” The L Spatz-55 does look like a mini version of the Ka 7.

Then, John and I went up in the Ka 7 to allow me to practice side slipping and complete my first flight of the season since my check out a few days prior. I didn’t want to take my single-seat glider up until I felt confident that my skills were adequate. The weather was ideal: 8-10 knot winds, blue sky, 17°C and all the high-performance ships competing in MayFly were far away from the field. Our flight in the Ka 7 was great! My boyfriend/instructor checked me out and confirmed I was ready to go.

Moments later, I was sitting in my very own glider, on the flight line doing my checks. For several minutes, I was a nervous wreck… I had to ask John to leave me alone a few minutes and although the tow pilot was ready to go, I thought of every piece of advice I had received over the years… “if you need more time, if you want to take several minutes to do all of your checks and check yourself internally, by all means, do it!” So, I did. I sat there breathing deep and after an emotional moment of tears rolling down my cheeks, I finally realized that I was ready. I wanted to fly my ship and take her soaring high above the ground. I called upon John and gave him the thumbs up. He passed me the canopy and I locked myself in.

The tow was uneventful yet very different than any other tow. This sailplane weighs a total of 585 lbs. with me and my parachute on board! But its wing span is 15 metres! So, the tow pilot has to keep the speed at 60 MPH not a notch above and even then, I had to side slip or skid continuously to keep the rope tight.

At 2400′ AGL, I released and starting flying my little ship. What a great feeling! I screamed “Wooo-hooo!” at the top of my lungs and went back to find that thermal I had just felt… I soared up to 3500′ and flew level for a bit. John had planned to take-off again in the Ka 7 to join me in the air. I stayed around the field thermaling here and there to wait for him and then watched him take-off behind the tow plane.

Within 5 minutes, we were soaring together in the same thermal. John had brought along our Nikon D3000 camera and took these great shots! I felt like a Million bucks! My man and I were both flying our vintage ships together in a thermal at 3000′! How many couples get to say that!?!?!